Email law is very important. Email has been and still is a very important communication tool. Some people use social media, collaboration tools and instant messaging to communicate, but there are still many who use email, especially for business. It is crucial that people comply with laws, rules, codes and standards that apply to email because otherwise the method of communicating could be compromised. There are also some risks associated with email.
Global Email Law
In most countries, there are seldom laws that directly apply to email. For example, you seldom find the Email Act. But there are many laws that indirectly relate to email. For example, e-commerce laws often apply (like the ECT Act in South Africa). The use of email is also often dealt with in other laws (for example, company laws, electronic signature or record retention laws).
There are model laws on email and often there are codes. There are also many laws that relate to direct marketing by email.
The risks of not complying with Email Law
Email law is important because the risks of failing to comply are significant. Many organisations have learnt the hard way by not paying attention to the laws that apply to email. For example:
- Lose money because an employee binds the organisation to onerous obligations in an email.
- Lose contractual rights because someone changes an existing written contract.
- Commit a criminal offence by an employee harassing someone using email.
- Get fined or sued for damages because an employee can disclose confidential or personal information.
- Suffer reputational damage if a sender sends an email to thousands of people, rather than using a mass mailer.
- Lose a case or get fined after being forced to discover (disclose) an email that contains damning evidence.
- Get fined for failing to retain an email that the law requires you to retain.
How we can help you
- Know what laws there are that regulate email by getting an Email Compliance Guide, attending training on email law or reading insights on this website.
- Regulate how employees use email in your organisation by implementing an Email Use Policy and Code of Behaviour (containing guidelines around acceptable use).
- Manage the risks associated with email by reviewing your current email disclaimer or implementing a good message disclaimer.
- Ensure you lawfully monitor email by implementing a policy for users and technical staff, and by getting the consent of employee to monitor their email.
- Retain and archive email in accordance with the law by determining your strategy, creating an email retention schedule, and setting an email archiving policy.
- Comply with all laws and codes while email marketing by getting a legal checklist for email marketing.
- Don’t infringe the privacy rights of your employees when they use gmail.
- Comply with your data protection obligations regards email.